In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses the proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Defense announced by Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel. The plan asks for $522 billion. Harper says, “If you look over time the draw down is substantial and a lot of it falls on the Army. We’re looking at moving from an Army of 520,000 troops down to one of about 450,000 troops.” That would take American military forces to the lowest level since before World War II.
And, in addition to Sec. Hagel’s proposed budget cuts, another round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) is being proposed for 2017.
But, in the face of the cuts, there were some positives in the budget for Northwest Florida. “Even though the A-10 aircraft is being phased out, the F-35 stayed in the budget under Sec. Hagel’s plans. That’s very important for Eglin Air Force Base, where that F-35 training is done,” says Harper. He says another bright spot economically for this region and Special Operations at Hurlburt Field is that the total number of Special Ops forces for the nation is expected to go up.
Additionally, the number of ships in the Navy is being reduced. Harper says such cuts won’t be too significant for Navy bases in Northwest Florida, but “it could be important for other places in Florida, particularly Jacksonville.”
Finally, Harper reflects back on the first ever Pensacon convention, which packed the Crown Plaza Hotel and Pensacola Bay Center last week. He reiterated that such an event in downtown Pensacola in February is good for the local economy.
Dr. Rick Harper is Director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate. http://www.uwf.edu/oede/, firstname.lastname@example.org